I have long thought that when the chips are down and things are not going my way is the perfect time to see who I really am. Back in 1998 I had an incredible opportunity to find that out and to take a huge leap in evolution at the same time.
My life had been progressively going my way. I had completed a project for which I was partially paid and was expecting a large payment that would cover my living expenses for another 6 months, plus reduce my debt a big notch. Plus, my mother was feeling extremely generous and was regularly sending me money to pay off more debt. I bought a fabulous new computer with lots of bells and whistles and was cooking along living my dream and growing by leaps and bounds when all of a sudden I hit a huge brick wall.
When the check didnt arrive, the contractor suddenly began to avoid my contact, not returning my calls or emails, having his kids tell me he wasnt home when I called . . . youve probably experienced the avoidance thing so you know what I mean. Two weeks passed and finally I tricked him with a phone call by telling his daughter that I was someone else. (Gosh, I never knew I had a sly side!). He gave me his song and dance, explaining that the balloon payment on his house was due and that the refinance fell through, so instead of sending the money to me he paid his balloon payment.
So what about me? How am I going to pay my obligations? He gave me a promise that he would work this out soon (when?) and that I should expect money in a week or so. It all sounded vague to me and when someone has just shafted you its difficult to trust more promises they make. Yet . . .
Then, to make matters worse (as if that could be possible), another person informed me that this contractor was having severe financial problem. As I sat with this situation I found myself in, I thought about and considered all the possible outcomes and watched myself traverse a broad range of perspectives and feelings appropriate to each outcome. I struggled to hold my thoughts on the outcome that offered the most relief (that payment would be forthcoming). Yet I wasn't convinced that this would turn into the worst that I could imagine (that he would file bankruptcy), so I ended up wavering somewhere around "I'll get small monthly payments," which didnt fit into my plans. None of those perspectives felt good; they all smacked of resonating with financial lack, and I knew that was not what I wanted to be transmitting.
This episode carried on for a few weeks, reeking havoc on my energy and plaguing me with negative thoughts, as I would catch myself having conversations in my head about telling him off for spending my money. Then, of course, because I was focusing in a negative direction, my thoughts always flowed to the possibility of him stiffing me for the money he owed me. I was angry that he was controlling my finances, or, more precisely, that I was feeling out of control. The funny thing about this is that he and I just had a conversation a few months earlier about a mutual acquaintance, and I was telling him why I had stopped doing business with her (her borderline ethics), and in my mind that was exactly what he was doing to me.
Negative thoughts kept intruding into my sense of well-being, "He makes her look like a saint. What he has done is illegal: He embezzled funds from me. The client paid him for work I did under subcontract to him and he spent it without once thinking about how that would affect my financial situation. What a twit."
Day after day I would catch myself thinking about this situation, feeling upset at him for not being more responsible and feeling even more upset with myself for getting into this mess. But those were relatively minor issues that I knew would easily dissipate. The major catch of the day was that I felt fearful that he wouldnt pay me, and that meant that I wouldnt be able to pay my debts, and that meant that my creditors would think that I was a flake, just like they did when I went through my bankruptcy a decade ago. Now I was getting really worried because I knew that the energy in those thoughts packed enough wallop to become my reality, unless I diffused it.
Trying to shift my thoughts to more optimistic ones by using affirmations didnt work and fearful thoughts kept popping back in. That told me that I didnt really believe that all was well and that everything would turn out for my highest good. Even though my sense was that he would eventually pay me (I just didnt feel like he was going to stiff me), I wanted to know when and how. If it didnt arrive by a certain date - THE DEADLINE - then I would need to borrow money from my mom. That immediately evoked thoughts of, "Humph!!! Back to that again. Shes going to think I'm a failure."
So with the intention of transforming my perceptive in mind, I became inspired to ask myself, "How can I respond to this situation in a way that uplifts him?" Immediately a little voice inside me said, "WHAT? Uplift HIM? Hes the bad guy here, so why should I make HIM feel better?" And the answer was obvious, "Because hes probably feeling worse than you are, and because he probably doesnt even realize how he got himself in this mess to begin with, and because then you will be the person you keep saying you want to be: An uplifter."
Geez! That was a tough argument that I couldnt possible win because I did want to be an uplifter. So I set upon the task of finding other ways to view this situation. Heres what I discovered: As long as I held fear and resentment about not being in control, then fear-based thoughts about losing control popped up automatically. It wasnt a conscious thing. I didnt think, "Gee, I think Ill think about not getting paid by him. Gosh, then Ill think about all the disastrous consequences that that will cause." The sequence I noticed was that first I became aware that I was tense and then I became aware of what I was last thinking. Sometimes the connection between what I was thinking and feeling was obvious. For instance, in a particularly tense moment, I caught myself thinking about needing to approach my mom for money (can you can imagine the tension that caused?). But I could tell that it was not the core source of the tension. The core was my discomfort in feeling at the mercy (and whims) of others.
I wanted to be in control of what happened in my life, to control the circumstances and situations that I was to experience. When I saw things coming toward me that I wanted, it was easy to feel good to think, speak and act in harmony with knowing that all was well. But when I noticed something coming toward me that potentially spelled disaster, I immediately assumed the worst and felt out of control. Coming from that negative perspective hes not going to pay me in the way I want was guaranteed to keep me in a state of stress.
As soon as I realized that I was caught in a spiral of negative thinking I deliberately decided to think about how he might have gotten himself into this mess. That thought led me to remember when I was going through my bankruptcy and how desperation provoked me to take inappropriate actions. Suddenly I found myself completely understanding how he had gotten into this predicament, and my anxiety and fears melted into compassion.
That did the trick. I realized that I was looking at it only from the perspective of "how was I affected by what he did?" I hadn't stopped to think about him and the stress that he was most likely enduring, and it suddenly occurred to me that this would be a good opportunity for me to uplift him and to help him gain something positive from this experience.
As I pondered this new perspective, my feelings suddenly transformed and I knew that regardless of the outcome I would be taken care of. If I never got the money from him, it would come from another source. If it came in tiny payments, it would still be spendable and I could still do what I had planned, perhaps just a bit slower. Or, he could find another company to refinance his house and a big check could already be on its way to me. Whichever way it turned out would be okay by me.
Three days after I changed my perspective I received a big fat delicious check from him with a note dripping with apology.
Now I know that the trick is not so much to eliminate all that stands in my way, but to stop perceiving stuff as standing in my way. I realized that consistency is about keeping my focus on the outcome I want regardless of what circumstances present themselves to me and that holding my tone is easy when life is easy, but holding my tone when life is difficult causes life to stop being difficult.
What a grand year that year became.
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